Radionics, or Black Box Dowsing

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Abrams Original Method.

The essence of Radionics was perhaps best summarised by Brian Wilson, formerly of the Beach Boys, in the classic 1966 pop hit “Good Vibrations”, in which he sang: “I’m pickin up good vibrations, oom bop bop, good vibrations, she’s giving me excitations, oom bop bop, excitations.” It is this detection of vibration, and manipulation of the resonance rates, that forms the basis of Radionic practice.

“Now, hold it right there!” demands the cranky curmudgeon kook. “Detecting vibrations? How is that any different from dowsing?”

The practitioner answers that in the mechanisms and healing purposes we find radionics distinguished from the older forms of dowsing and radiesthesia, and that it is on the “circuit” we best attune ourselves to the subtle energies of life. In our continuing work to better explain and understand the meaning of this answer, we have looked to Albert Abrams, his inheritors, and their stated purposes, exploring and elaborating on the science of Radionics. This article represents the current state of our efforts, and, as always, we at the Kook Science Resistance leave it to you to judge the truth for yourself . . .

The Electronic Reactions of Abrams

By means of this system Abrams claims that he “can diagnose the sex, race and disease” of a patient that he has never seen, and who does not need to be present. All that Abrams needs is a sample of blood from that patient. A few drops of blood, taken from that individual while he is facing west, but who may be a thousand miles or more away, are put on a piece of paper which is mailed to Abrams. The paper is then placed in what Abrams calls his “Dynamizer.” This is connected with his “Rheostatic Dynamizer,” from which, in turn, wires go to the “Vibratory Rate Rheostat” that is connected with the “Measuring Rheostat.” From the “Measuring Rheostat” comes a wire at the end of which is an electrode which is pressed to the forehead of some other healthy individual who is termed “the subject” whose abdomen is then percussed. The subject must face west and be in a dim light. The mysterious energy from the patient’s blood sample or other specimen passes from the subject’s forehead to the subject’s abdomen where this mysterious electronic emanation sets up certain changes in the hollow organs which may be detected by percussing the subject’s abdomen.

Journal of the American Medical Association 79, no. 27 (Dec 30, 1922) [1]

In May 1898, Dr. Albert Abrams submitted his resignation as Professor of Pathology to the Cooper Medical College, leaving behind academia to pursue private practice. Over the course of the next twenty-six years, Abrams would find infamy and wealth in the detection of bad vibrations, developing and exploiting what he called the “Electronic Reactions of Abrams.”

To understand the E.R.A., one must first realise that the terminology used by Dr. Abrams and his followers is misleading: the basic determination of a patient’s well-being, what Abrams described as “ohms” (or others called “frequencies”), was calculated not by directly measuring electric resistance or current, but, as detailed in the opening quote, through the creation of a kind of physical-psychic circuit, connecting a healthy subject (reagent), via the forehead (third eye), to an apparatus linked to the blood or hair sample (or handwriting, or photograph) of the patient being examined. Once connected, it was proposed that the healthy body will find itself naturally responsive to the energy vibration of the sample, allowing the operator to detect the shift— in this case, by touching the abdomen of the host, feeling the change. By comparing these changes to pre-established disease rates, the operator, according to Abrams, was able to determine what afflictions, if any, plagued the patient.

Were this a simple dowsing, the diagnosis having been made, the patient would be sent on their way for treatment of the uncovered sickness. However, the detection of disease was only the first part of the E.R.A. program. Once the practitioner had established what the sickness of the patient was, they could then begin treatment by use of an Oscilloclast to correct the “perturbed electronic energy” making them sick. The method was simple: the patient would be linked into an actual electric circuit, gently insulated to avoid electrocution (for example, using drinking glasses to ground the feet), and a current would be run through them, assisting to restore a baseline, healthy vibration, a process that would be repeated until the patient could be redowsed and declared disease free.

The Oscilloclast of Dr. Abrams

At the time of the discovery of the “electronic reactions”, the medical and scientific communities were in a state of rapid, often confusing, progression. Education could hardly keep up with the rate of advancement, and, indeed, the use of electricity was still new to many. In such an environment, it proved simpler for theories like those offered by Abrams, perhaps in part by virtue of their novelty, to quickly take sway over thousands of paying students (including no less than the writer Upton Sinclair).

Not that Abrams was alone in his tapping into this public enchantment with the electric: there were dozens of rival “electronic” cures, all claiming similar feats for their own methods, all demanding similarly high prices. What’s more is the new science of medical electricity, all of varying legitimacy, was no small, humbled ventured, but a growing business enterprise, drawing in huge incomes and putting itself into direct competition with more conventional medicine. Hard scrutiny was inevitable.

Beginning in 1923, Scientific American magazine, working with the American Medical Association, participated in a ten-month, $20-30k research project, studying the E.R.A. with several of Abrams own students, including a man who went by the pseudonym “Doctor X”.[2] A true believer, Dr. X, was convinced that he would be able to prove the merit of Abrams’s methods, and submitted himself fully to perform the experiments.

The test was simple enough: based on six germ cultures taken from diseased patients, determine the affliction of those patients. The results would be checked against the known pathogens in the samples, and, since surely this would be nothing outside the range of the typical E.R.A. diagnosis, success was a certainty. The proof would be irrefutable, and the Abrams’s method, at last, given full credibility.

But the first trial failed. Dr. X was wrong on his diagnosis of each sample.

Unable to determine the cause of the failure, after initially questioning the purity of the cultures, Dr. X examined the vials themselves, where upon he discovered the fatal flaw: red ink and hand writing. These factors, he explained, contaminated the samples, both acting to interfere with the high sensitivity of the instruments. The test would have to be run again, this time without the obstruction.

The second trial also failed, catastrophically. Again, each diagnosis performed was wrong.

Further tests with other E.R.A. practitioners likewise resulted in misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis. Dr. Abrams himself did not submit to perform any such experimentation before the Scientific American committees, noting that “when the E.R.A. diagnostician is working under test conditions, he is at a decided disadvantage because of his anxiety regarding the outcome of the test. From time to time we have been warned against a skeptical turn of mind, for such a state on the part of the investigator has a decidedly detrimental influence on the reactions…” [3]

As attention mounted, Mary Lecocq, a Bible Student (later called “Jehovah’s Witnesses”) from Jonesboro, Arkansas, found herself caught in the line of fire, becoming one of the first to be prosecuted for fraud in a federal court over her E.R.A. practice. Like Dr. X, Lecocq had been provided a blood sample and asked to perform her standard services, including a recommendation as to how to cure any diseases uncovered. She complied, detecting cancer, diabetes, and malaria from the sample, with the obvious solution of treatment using an Abram’s machine. The test was, however, a fraud of its own— the blood sample had been extracted from a rooster. A federal criminal prosecution was launched, and Abrams himself was called to testify. [4]

Albert Abrams, however, would never appear in court, succumbing to pneumonia in January 1924 (as, it is claimed, his own readings predicted he would). His legacy of work, and an accumulated fortune estimated to have been in the millions, was left to his College of Electronic Medicine, under the directorship of Fred Hart; and, while the organization continued operations as the Electronic Medical Foundation, producing an array of Abrams-style devices, it was part of a movement rapidly losing favour, and would eventually be shut down by the Food and Drug Administration following yet another chicken blood scandal.

In the wake of Abrams’s passing, the Scientific American and the A.M.A. concluded their research project, declaring the “so-called electronic treatments” to be “without value”, the claims of the practitioners having “no basis in fact”. [5]

The era of E.R.A., it appeared, was coming to an end.

Drown, Ruth Drown

Ruth Drown at work in the Broadcasting Room.

“The key to understanding the work and instruments of Dr. Ruth Drown lies in a firm grasp of the two fundamental energy manifestations connected with the human body. These are, first, the electrostatic energy of the physical-mineral tissues, and second, the vital energy which passes into and through those tissues enabling them to hold their form.”

Trevor J. Constable, “The Work of Dr. Ruth Drown” (1961) [6]

Without Ruth Drown, it is likely that American radionics would have ended with Abrams, a novelty from the dawn of our electrical age. Her efforts helped to push Abrams’s discipline into the realm of the vitalistic, seeking out the connective tissue between the ancient Hermetic sciences and the new science of Radionics.

It was in 1923, the year before Abrams death, that Drown, then head of the Southern California Edison Company’s mechanical addressing department, was first introduced to the radionic theories that would so impact the rest of her life. She attended a lecture on the use of radio energies in disease treatment, presented by a Dr. Frederick F. Strong, and was so moved that she immediately sought to work for him, resigning her high-paying job with Edison to take on a post as a part-time office assistant. This, in turn, led to her employment by Dr. Thomas McAllister, under whose encouragement Drown briefly studied osteopathy, before she eventually became licensed as a Doctor of Chiropractic.

First as a student and then as a doctor, Drown extensively experimented with the radionics that Strong’s lecture had introduced to her, but found problems in the theories as they had been expressed. Influenced partly by a long interest in metaphysics and Kabbalism, she came to believe that, while Abrams had touched on an underlying truth, electricity proved too coarse to be truly useful in effective diagnosis and treatment— there had to be some more subtle force at work. Further, the means of detection had to be refined to reduce the kinds of errors that had plagued Dr. X, allowing the practitioner to lock on to a very specific, individual frequency.

The answer, she speculated, might be found by studying radio technology. In her own words: “When placed on a blotter, the blood is crystallized, even as ice is crystalized steam, and each small atom is the precipitated crystallized end of an invisible line which reaches out to the ethers. This invisible line passes through the body over the nerves and through the blood vessels and the electrons from the air, water and earth supply the body structure, attaching themselves to that line, which holds the pattern of the body.” [7]

With this understanding of life forces as a basis, it made sense to “cut the cord” between the Electronic Reactions of Abrams and a new, more overtly vitalistic radionics, replacing “ohms” with “rates”, electronic responses with human vibration radiation. Likewise, the reagent medium once used to feel out the diagnosis, too imprecise and open to interferences, could be replaced with the simpler, more sensitive radio-like mechanism of the Homo-Vibra Ray.

Even more revolutionary still, Drown determined that if one could detect these vibratory energy rates by simple tuning, one could also broadcast the curative response at a distance, signalling across the ether. From her Broadcast Room, she would need only dial in the healing frequencies, direct it to unique frequency determined from the patient’s blotter sample, and transmit the cure, restoring the life forces back to a healthy state.

However, despite these refinements and the distancing of her methods from those of Abrams, Drown could not overcome the apparent impact of simple skepticism on the procedure. Three experimental trials conducted by Drown herself at the University of Chicago, organised at the behest of prominent supporters, all resulted in misdiagnosis, while attempts at using the remote curative powers of her devices to control hemorrhaging left two dogs dead, both having bled to death. [8]

The tribulations of Drown continued as, in 1951, she was tried in federal court for misbranding her devices as part of interstate commerce, a case she subsequently lost and was fined over. [9]

Forced to restrict her activities to California, Drown quietly continued her radionic research and practice from her Hollywood offices for over a decade, only to once again find herself on the receiving end of government investigation. In 1963, Ruth Drown, her daughter, and several assistants were arrested on grand theft charges, their equipment seized. Drown would spend the remaining years of her life awaiting trial, dying before she could be brought to judgement. [10] [11]

You didn’t mention Blofeld at all!


Through the course of our research, we at the Kook Science Resistance have come to an important question of our own, a problem that is, sadly, highlighted every time we see a tremendous profit motive involved in alternative practices: why is the technology so crap?

Be they Dynomizers, Oscilloclasts, Homo-Vibra Rays, it seems that all this radionic equipment purporting to assist in diagnosis and healing lacks real mechanical functionality when looking under the lid. These concerns have only been exacerbated by discovery of the fact that those who leased Abrams’s “black boxes” were bound by the strictest confidentiality, legally prohibited from opening and studying the interior mechanisms, something that is clearly the anti-thesis of open scientific inquiry. If they were simple focuses, as some later proponents have argued, what was the justification for the exorbitant fees, the oppressive demands of secrecy? If intended to act in some useful mechanical sense, why were they so badly designed and constructed?

[If we weren't so trusting and receptive to new ideas, it would almost seem that radionic boxes are a scam, taking advantage of our trust and aesthetic preference for rheostat dials over pendulums.]

These questions still in mind, we will end here on the dividing line between the original Albert Abrams radionics, the radionics of the Black Box, and a new, purely vibratory, psychotronic thinking that would emerge as a continuation of Ruth Drown’s efforts. Radionics without boxes, without wires!

Our study of the New Radionics is to come. EYES OPEN!

  1. Entry on Albert Abrams (c.1863-1924) from Stanford University School of Medicine and the Predecessor Schools: An Historical Perspective, John L. Wilson, M.D. (1998)
  2. Dr. Albert Abrams and the E.R.A., Ken Raines
  3. Scientific American, January, 1924, pp. 69, 70.
  4. “Secret Jehovah’s Witness Legal Cases”, pp. 4
  5. Pay Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain: SciAm’s History of Debunking, podcast, (January 2, 2008)
  6. “The Work of Dr. Ruth Drown: An Outline on a Thumbnail”, Trevor James Constable, Journal of Borderland Research (Vol. XVII, No. 1, 1961)
  7. The Theory and Technique of Drown Radiotherapy and Radio-Vision Instruments, Ruth B. Drown (1939)
  8. Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 142, Issue 7, pp. 506-507 (February 18, 1950)
  9. Quackery in the Medical Device Field, Kenneth L. Milstead (1963)
  10. “The Incredible Drown Case”, Ralph Lee Smith, Today’s Health (April 1968)
  11. “A Quack Is Caught after Taking $500,000 from 35,000 Patients”, LIFE (Nov. 1, 1963)

The following materials provide a far more comprehensive look into the science and history of radionics.

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